William S.A. Beal, self portrait, ca. 1918
My column in today's Winnipeg Free Press celebrates the life of one of rural Manitoba's first black settlers, William "Billy" Beal, and the community that has worked hard to ensure that his memory is kept alive.
Beal, a steam engineer by trade, came from Minnesota and settled in the Big Woody district, near Swan River, in 1906. He spent his life helping to build his community by creating its first library, being a founding member of its school and literary society, and even providing assistance to local doctors in times of epidemic.
His most lasting legacy, though, are his photographs.
Through the 19-teens and 1920s, Beal photographed the people of the region and dozens of these images survive to this day.
More black history on West End Dumplings...
Percy Haynes of Haynes' Chicken Shack
Jesse Owens races at Osborne Stadium
Duke Ellington, Omar Williams and their 1946 Banning St. jam
Behind the Photo: Railway Porters' Band of Winnipeg
... and in my Free Press Columns
Recipe for success (more detailed article on the Haynes')
The fastest man on earth (more detailed article about Jesse Owens)
Every inch a gentleman (more on Billy Beal of Swan River)